If you own a home in the Midwest, chances are it’s an unassuming one-story ranch. If you live in the Sun Belt, your home is likely new, but it will likely be built in a traditional style that draws inspiration from much older buildings. And if your house is in the northeast, it’s probably a two-story colonial.
These findings come from research conducted by American Home Shield, a home warranty company that analyzed nationwide registration data for the most popular house style in each state.
Regional housing styles were originally driven by “cultural and climatic” forces, says Gregory Galford, architect and assistant professor of residential environments and design at Virginia Tech. Prior to central air conditioning and heating, construction methods and design largely reflected local climates and terrain.
But after World War II, house styles standardized. Now, a few housing types dominate neighborhoods across the country, regardless of region.
The most popular house styles
According to the AHS study, four styles dominate the residential market: Ranch, Traditional, Colonial and Contemporary.
The Ranch: The American Dream on One Level
This one-story style is the most common home type in 19 states. The Ranch’s geographic reach is vast, ranking as the premier home style choice from Maine to Alaska. The popularity of ranch houses is partly driven by economic factors – compared to two-story houses, single-story houses are cheaper to build. But they require larger lots, which is why they’re common in states with low land costs, like Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio.
“Ranch dwellings are very popular in states where there is plenty of space to extend a one-story home over a wider area,” says Brett Worthington, senior vice president of Frontdoor, the parent company of Frontdoor. American Home Shield. “It requires a lot of land space, so it would be expensive to build where land is scarce.”
The ranch style first became popular in the Southwest, Galford says, in the early 1930s. It was designed to stay cool on hot days by using the roof as shade and minimizing the outdoor space that could absorb heat.
During the national building boom that followed World War II, the ranch became a popular and affordable option for middle-class homebuyers. While the style was originally aimed at young families, these days ranch homes make sense for aging homeowners who no longer want to climb stairs.
“The lack of steps really helps people age in place,” says Galford.
Traditional houses: borrowing character
The most common style in 14 states, including Texas and Florida, the traditional is a mixed bag, architecturally – the style may draw design inspiration from predecessors such as colonial, farmhouse and neoclassical.
“You almost have to put quotes around that – what kind of traditional are you talking about?” said Galford. “People love the idea of character and story, and traditional borrows details from different styles.”
Traditional homes allow newly built suburban homes to echo past eras. These mansions are typically two-story and feature symmetrical windows, discreet eaves, and occasional gables.
Colonial: A two-story house with “presence”
This stately style is the most common type of house in eight states, including Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey and New York – all among the oldest sections of the country and members of the 13 American colonies of origin. “We can assume colonial styles are more common in New England because of its history as a settler state,” says Worthington.
Often built of brick and topped with a mansard roof, Colonial-style homes hark back to the days of dining rooms, parlors, and carriage sheds.
“There’s a formality to that,” says Galford. “A two-story colonial with shutters presents a certain facade, even a statement of wealth. A colonial house has a certain presence, as opposed to a ranch house which somehow blends into its surroundings.
Contemporary: King in California
This type is the most common housing in only four states, but one – California – is the largest housing market in the country. The modern style is marked by geometric yet asymmetrical silhouettes, large windows, and open floor plans.
In addition to California, contemporary homes are common in Hawaii. Both states are marked by high land costs, which means most homes are located on small lots. Even though a homeowner cannot lay claim to a large yard or a sprawling floor plan, the many windows still create a sense of space.
Of the remaining styles, craftsman (aka bungalow, an early 20th-century rustic style) is most common in just two states, while pueblo, Cape Cod, and manufactured homes are #1 in one state each.
The most valuable house styles
The most common house styles are popular because they appeal to the masses – and are often mass-produced by developers. But they are not the most expensive. These are the most expensive home styles, according to American Home Shield; they often feature prominently in luxury real estate listings.
This style commands an average price tag of $1.2 million. The exact design can vary, although large windows or floor-to-ceiling patio doors are typical – it’s all about the view and easy access to the outdoors. And value also depends on location – beachfront properties are rare and, therefore, expensive.
This style fetches an average price of nearly $1 million. This type of house evokes the simple elegance of villas built around the Mediterranean Sea, designed to take advantage of warm and sunny climates. They usually have terracotta and stucco details; patios and porticos often feature prominently.
With an average price of $960,638, shingle-style homes are most common in coastal New York and New Jersey. Dating back to the late 1800s, the massive style blends English influence with the simple shingle surfaces of early American Colonial architecture.
This style, often seen in Arizona, California and Florida, costs an average of $841,784. The Spanish style incorporates elements of colonial architecture under Spanish rule and is characterized by terracotta tiles.
Characterized by large windows, open floor plans and a minimalist philosophy, this style sells for an average price of $806,732.
This style, with an average price of $799,541, was popularized by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Mid-Century Modern homes feature floor-to-ceiling windows, open spaces, and a design that blends the outdoors and the indoors.
This castle-inspired style fetches an average price of $780,231. French country houses are typically two stories high and include distinctive rooflines, elaborate stonework, and intricate latticework.
The most unique home styles
In an age of nationwide builders and cookie-cutter suburbs, much of the regional flavor has disappeared from home design. But some quirks remain — what American Home Shield dubs each state’s “most popular” home style.
For example, in Kentucky and Indiana, it is the gun shack – a long, low style of one-piece width construction. In Missouri and Kansas, the earthly home – and the subterranean abode dating back to settler times – is the winner.
Some of the results are unsurprising – Adirondack style wins in its native New York, contemporary Northwest style is the most popular local flavor in Washington state, and something called Northern New Mexico gets the green light in New Mexico.
And a few states offer puzzles – namely Idaho, where the French mansion wins this category, and Oklahoma, where the high-ceilinged Dallas style is popular.
The Last Word on Popular Home Styles
Home styles reflect cultural and economic factors, and Galford says consumer tastes continue to evolve. For example, the work-from-home trend promises to change the design of the home. “We blur a lot of lines,” he notes. “Home used to be where the private life started, but now we bring the work home.” Already, there’s a bit of a backlash against open floor plans, as residents crave privacy to focus on work. And there is also a desire to treat porches and patios as outdoor rooms, enclosing them for outdoor offices.
In another context, rising land prices mean that new homes are being built on ever smaller lots. So if American Home Shield recalculates this list a generation from now, it might find that American homeowners might have been bidding on sprawling ranches and embracing tall, narrow townhouses.